Mr Blair’s Messiah Politics
London: Social Affairs Unit, 2006
Reviewed by Bill Jones
As I picked up this book to read it for review, I realised I was carrying quite a baggage of prejudice against it. I know the name of the author well from the various effusions he has produced on the right-wing analysis of the world in general and capitalism in particular; for example: Rich is Beautiful: A very personal defence of mass affluence. The Social Affairs Unit is also perceived as a right-wing think tank. The subtitle to this volume did not help either: Blair was only labelled ‘Bambi’ for a short time so the pejorative soubriquet seemed to date the analysis from the outset and confirm my expectation of partisan intent.
However, having read the book I think that North, while certainly wielding that partisan intent like a very blunt broadsword, has captured at least part of the inner self of this gifted mercurial British politician who has been in power for nine eventful years.
These two contrasting qualities are well observed. Blair is vacuous, lacking the well stocked ideological portfolio of, say, Gordon Brown. Yet, he is not weak and indecisive: he sticks to his decisions and defends them tenaciously; this is why the name "Bambi" soon faded from use as it simply did not fit the man.
North trawls through Blair’s life, finding evidence of his version of "messianism" in Blair’s early, and it would seem abiding, passion to be a rock star. Strutting centre stage, like Mick Jagger, must have fuelled his desire to influence huge numbers of people. North sees Blair as our
But the vacuity was an advantage in that it allowed us to use him as the vehicle for our own unarticulated objectives:
Blair was one of those special, gifted politicians: an example of the "ideal leadership type... in the mould of the charismatic German romantic, the hero spellbound by his own charm who places himself above party."
Not for him the ordinariness of mere domestic politics; the world was his proper stage: solving the problems of Africa, saving the oppressed, feeding the starving, overcoming the wicked. This helps to explain the "steeliness": people on such higher missions expect to be misunderstood, to be criticised, to become a martyr even:"He does not expect us to like him or reward him, now or in the future."
Blair possibly feels, like Bush, that God has put him here ‘for some purpose’; his related sermonising tendencies have been deftly satirised in Private Eye's The Vicar of St Albion. North sustains the thinnest pretence of objectivity but by the conclusion his patience has clearly expired. Now the bar-room assertions come striding through strained attempts at analysis: Blair’s "narrative" we are now told is "old-hat," or just, "guff." Yet, North has one extraordinary medal which he is keen to pin on Tony’s Christ-like breast: for invading Iraq: "Future generations may yet say this action alone made Tony Blair a great leader."
This is a short book with a thin and ultimately highly prejudiced thesis. But North’s basic proposition—Blair’s extraordinary self-belief and desire to do good on a planetary scale—would seem to be on the money. At the very least it would explain why Blair, leading this middle-ranking former colonial power, has been so keen to access the power of the world’s only super-power. His idea was that in this way, he and George could combine forces and do God’s work here on earth together. But I somehow doubt that His work is being done in Iraq or will ever be seen in such a light.